Protesters block main highway linking Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro


About 500 protesters blocked the Dutra highway, the main route between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil's two largest cities, in another demonstration linked to the wave of protests sweeping the South American giant.

The company that administers the highway and the Highway Police said that the blockades occurred at Km 149 and 152, in the city of Sao Jose dos Campos, some 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Sao Paulo.

Authorities said that the demonstrators gathered on the city's central plaza to protest the recent hike in public transport fares and, despite the rainy conditions, decided to march to the Dutra highway, which passes through that industrial city.




Colombia has 4 in custody for killing of DEA agent


Colombian authorities arrested four suspects in last week's murder of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent, police sources told Efe.

One of those arrested appears to be the driver of the taxi in which James "Terry" Watson was traveling through an exclusive sector of northern Bogota when two men entered the vehicle allegedly to rob him, but then stabbed him several times, killing him.

Police are still looking for two other suspects.

Authorities suspect that those responsible for Watson's death belong to a gang of robbers of taxis who perpetrate so-called "millionaire outings" during which they rob the rider of his belongings and force him to withdraw money from his bank account at various ATMs.




Obama calls for coordinated attack against climate change


U.S. President Barack Obama outlined a national plan to reduce environmental pollution and lead a coordinated attack against climate change.

"The question is not whether we need to act. The overwhelming judgment of science, of chemistry and physics and millions of measurements, has put all that to rest," he said in a major policy address at Washington's Georgetown University. "So the question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it's too late."

"As a president, as a father and as an American, I'm here to say we need to act," Obama said.

The president said he has ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to draft regulations for new and existing power plants "to put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution."




9 Killed as cops battle gang in Brazil slum


Nine people were killed in clashes between police and members of a gang of drug traffickers in a Rio de Janeiro slum, Brazilian authorities said.

The battle began Monday night with the killing of a police sergeant and a neighborhood resident, which spurred a police operation to occupy Nova Holanda, one of a cluster of "favelas," or shantytowns, known as Complexo da Mare.

The search for the murderers ended in the wee hours of Tuesday with the death of at least six people, whom police identified as members of a drug trafficking gang, and the arrest of two others.

Another Nova Holanda resident died Tuesday at a Rio hospital of gunshot wounds received the previous night in the initial shootings.




Taliban attack Afghan presidential palace


The Taliban launched an attack on the presidential palace in Kabul that killed three guards.

The attack began at 6:30 a.m. when four suicide bombers using fake IDs tried to get into the compound that holds the palace and the Defense Ministry.

President Hamid Karzai was in the building and was due to offer a press conference at 9:00 a.m., according to Afghan media.

"The Taliban were identified by security forces before they could enter the palace," police spokesman Dawun Amin told Efe.

"One of the suicide bombers detonated his explosives, killing three security guards and wounding another," Amin said.




Qatar emir abdicates in favor of his son


The emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, abdicated in favor of his son, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

"The future lies ahead of you, the children of this homeland, as you usher in a new era where young leadership hoists the banner," the 61-year-old departing emir said in a nationally televised address.

Tamim, who takes command at age 33 of the small, gas-rich Gulf nation, is the second son of the emir with the Sheikha Moza and became crown prince in 2003 after his older brother Yasim renounced the title.




U.S. Supreme Court guts important element of Voting Rights Act


The U.S. Supreme Court effectively neutered a vital enforcement mechanism of the 1965 federal law protecting minorities' right to vote.

By a 5 to 4 vote, the high court ruled that Congress must revise the criteria determining which states must obtain federal approval to change their voting laws.

The criteria are set in Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and provide the basis of the federal "preclearance" authority established by Section 5.

The current Section 4 standards, as specified in Congress' 2006 reauthorization of the Act, make Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia subject to preclearance.




8 Killed in effort to rescue flood victims in India


Eight people died when a military helicopter crashed while carrying out rescue work in the widely flooded northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, the press reported.

The helicopter went down as it was flying back to the city of Kedarnath, the epicenter of the flooding that has caused 882 fatalities up to now, according to television channel NDTV.

Everyone on board - five soldiers of the crew and three civilians - were killed in the accident, whose causes are not yet known.

Authorities deployed 45 army aircraft to carry out rescue work in what is the biggest operation of its kind to date.




U.S. seizes a Picasso painting worth over $11 mn


The U.S. Department of Justice seized a work by Pablo Picasso valued at $11.5 million in the name of the Italian government, which is calling for it to be handed over in a case of fraud, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, said.

The 1909 painting "Compotier et Tasse" has been retained under the terms of an agreement between the United States and Italy in New York, where it was to be put on sale.

Italian authorities are trying to seize the assets of Gabriella Amati and her husband, Angelo Maj, who are accused of embezzlement and fraudulent bankruptcy proceedings in Naples.